Feature Friday: Linn

Linn is in my parent’s ward and I got to take a tour of her beautiful, tidy, and organized home a few months ago to get some inspiration for my own. Her story is one of familiarity and I am sure there are many who can relate to it. I am grateful for her willingness to share.
Linn’s favorite things are the gospel of Jesus Christher family and organization. She is also obsessed with being a picture taker, reader, laugher, memory maker and chapstick user. All of that said, her IG bio sums it up best: Wife to my favorite person ever, momma to my other six favorite humans. What a beautiful life I get to live, what a mighty Savior I get to serve.


The first time I remember experiencing depression was when I was 18 years old. I definitely couldn’t have named it at the time, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Those few weeks after my high school graduation, after pushing myself beyond my limits for months and months, I felt completely numb and oddly “off” for many weeks. My current 42-year-old self can easily look back and see that it was a precursor of things to come, but it certainly wasn’t obvious then. I have now officially been in treatment for depression for the last six years. I’m extraordinarily grateful for each facet of that treatment. But there is little question to me that I should have been earnestly seeking help longer than I have been.

I believe the depression I know today began when our little family lived back East. Our time on the East Coast was an extremely difficult five years for me. And that was very unexpected. We had moved multiple times and lived in several different cities throughout the US, beginning just shortly after our marriage. But for some reason, my outgoing nature just couldn’t break through in Boston. We had wonderful members of our church congregation that we adored (and still do), but the boundaries of that congregation were huge and our time with them was very limited. I tried for three years to somehow find a friend or two in our town that I could feel close to, someone beyond just an acquaintance I talked to on occasion. I was told more than once, “I’m sorry you’ll never fit it. It isn’t your fault you aren’t a townie.” (Townie refers to someone who was born, raised, and still resided in the same New England town.) I honestly don’t believe the people who told me this were being rude, it was just how it was and they thought I should know. I couldn’t really fix that little problem of mine, so I kept trying. Until I didn’t.

I remember telling my husband after three years of doing everything I could to make a true connection with those around me, “My situation hasn’t changed, but I have.” And I had to let it go. Not out of bitterness or resentment, but just out of a final realization that my extroverted and outgoing personality wasn’t going to win this one.

In addition, and I’m still not sure of the reason behind this, but our time back East just felt hard. Everyday tasks felt like they took a lot out of me, something I hadn’t experienced in the past or since our most recent move. And anything out of the ordinary felt just plain daunting. Obviously those feelings can be signs of depression, but in all honesty, I don’t know how much was because of my emotional health and how much of that struggle might have been causing my depression. I know not everyone who lives in New England feels this way, but I actually have talked to several who do. It is curious to me, if nothing else.

The last two years of our time in Boston were fine; nothing about them was particularly terrible. But I could sense that I had changed in ways that were actually worrisome to me. I could feel my naturally, extroverted self, closing in. A lot of the time, “introvert” better described me during those days. Now let me be clear, I am in no way implying that introverts are depressed, just the drastic change in personality for me was what was notable and cause for concern.

At the same time all of this was happening, I had some terribly difficult struggles with some extended family members that brought me to my knees. Over and over and over again. It was just a lot, for many years, and it definitely contributed to my concerning emotional health.

As did my physical health. I often joke with my husband that I think I received a “refurbished” body when I came to Earth. I have the strangest health issues at times, from high risk pregnancies to an unusual brain disorder (idiopathic intracranial hypertension for those looking for a tongue-twister) to PCOS to bizarre joint and bone problems. I cannot count the number of times a doctor has said to me, “I have never seen anything like this Mrs. Allen.” Nice. And while I usually try to joke about it, physical struggles can most definitely contribute to depression challenges. And those health issues were oddly abundant while we lived on the East Coast.

One last experience in New England stood out to me. I had gone into my OB/GYN for an appointment and I ended up sharing with her how much I was struggling, how hard life felt for me all of the time of late. She told me she thought I should see my primary care, but she also ran a couple of tests herself. Through those tests, she discovered that my hormone levels were incredibly off and advised that I take a small bit of hormone, hoping that would help things. It did. Tremendously. At least for a time.

Shortly thereafter, I did visit my primary care physician. She listened and then suggested that I take an anti-depressant, to see if it would help. I remember being shocked and wondering why she was jumping to something so drastic. I laugh at that now, knowing that she was likely seeing it much more clearly than I was in that moment. (It is so interesting to me that when I think of others with depression or other mental health challenges getting help or taking medication, it feels brave to me. I’m so impressed with them. But when it came to me, it felt weak and lacking. I’m past that now, gratefully, but oh man, it was how my mind operated during that time.) Because the hormones my other doctor prescribed helped so much for a time, I felt almost justified in my reaction to my primary care doctor. I didn’t need anti-depressants, I just needed some help with my hormones. (Insert the emoji where I am shaking my head at myself. Also the prideful emoji that doesn’t exist to my knowledge, but should—at least for me.)

A few months after this experience, we received a strong impression that we needed to move. Through much prayer and fasting and my husband searching for jobs, we ended up with the answer that we should move back to Utah. Both my husband and I cried (and my husband is not a crier). We had lived “away” from our home state for more than a dozen years and while we both loved the state we were raised in, we never imagined moving back. We liked “being away” and it was difficult for that to end. It felt like a bigger change than we had initially thought we would be asked to make.

At the same time, I was expecting our sixth child. As mentioned, I have high risk pregnancies. Every single time. And my last one was especially difficult. It was physically taxing and worrisome, like the rest, but it seemed to take a more emotional toll on me than the other five, likely because of all that was happening in our lives and the large amount of change and challenges throughout my time being pregnant.

I remember about ten days or so after our daughter was born (she was four weeks early, but gratefully, very healthy), my husband approached me and kindly said, “Linn, do you want to call the doctor or should I?” He didn’t need to explain himself. Both of us knew I was in a dark and numb place, deeper in depression than I ever had been before that time. I didn’t even have the strength to make that call. But he did. And I will be forever grateful.

That call was the beginning of me fighting for my mental health and while I wish I could say that initial reason for calling the doctor has remained my worst time, it hasn’t. Not by a long shot. But I have had doctors that I will forever praise their name for going to bat for me and helping me make decisions to help myself. I have an incredible therapist that I have been seeing for years and how I was led to her can only be described as “divine intervention.” And after a few different tries, I have a wonderful medication that I take that has been such a blessing and help to me. It doesn’t change who I am, it clears away the junk, so I can be who I truly am. I have children who know that I have depression and that let me be open with them about it (age appropriately, of course). We talk about it plenty and we joke about it a lot (they are careful to never cross the line in their humor, but it is seriously beyond hilarious, I love it so). And while it may not be right for everyone, it is so right for us for the stigma and secrecy of mental illness not to be present in our family. And mostly, I have a husband who has been through more than anyone else realizes and still keeps coming back and loving and serving and trying and accepting and caring. He is amazing and good and I am eternally grateful for him and how he chooses to love me and how he works to see such good in me, even when I am in a place where I don’t believe him.

Most especially, I have a Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, who love me and have never left my side. When my depression is at its worst, I can’t feel the Spirit. I can’t feel my Father’s love or my Savior’s hope. And that used to shake me and make me feel unworthy and make it hard to pray or read my scriptures or even to care… But more often than not now, it just makes me look forward to when the depression will clear and the ability to feel the Spirit will return. My prayers and my doing everything possible to have the Spirit close to me, especially when I can’t feel it, not only make the post-depression episodes so much better, but they make my actual periods of depression much less. I know how blessed I am to have my depression as manageable as it is. And all of that is due to the above paragraph and to God’s incredible kindness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It isn’t easy, and there have been many dark, dark times that bring tears to my eyes when I think about them. But I know to Whom I can go for strength and help and healing (no matter how temporary) and mostly, to feel even a sliver of light, in a very dark place.

As I told someone recently, I don’t actually believe my life here in mortality is meant to be free of depression. Who knows? Maybe I am wrong about that. But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to be completely free from my depression. I have had opportunities to help others that I never would have had I not personally dealt with mental illness myself. I have made the choice to be very open about having depression and seeking treatment and seeing a counselor, a choice that works for me. And I have been surprised when that comes back to be a blessing to others. I have gone through situations that have rocked me to my core (most especially in the past three years, the last year being an absolute doozy). But because depression is a part of my life, I am learning to make the effort to take care of myself and help to heal myself from those difficult events and experiences in a way that I don’t know that I would without this struggle.

Depression is real. It is a part of my story. But it isn’t my story. And I have my Savior, Jesus Christ and my God to thank for that. They have surrounded me with my sweet kids that care when I struggle and that laugh when it is most needed. They have given me a husband that is the most hopeful and incredible person I know, even when he has every reason not to be. They have allowed me to struggle with depression, knowing that it had the ability to bring me to Them in a way that nothing else could, if I would make that choice.

If there is anything I have learned over the last six years–and beyond–it is that God loves His children. Every single one of us. Including me. Imperfect, crazy, loud, fabulous, depressed, happy, bodily-challenged, joyful me. And there is nothing that my God wants more for me than to run to Him. In joy and happiness, in pain and agony, in numbness and confusion. He will take all of it, if I will just come.

I’m truly grateful for the experience of writing my story. Of course, there are ten million other significant details I haven’t shared. (You’re welcome.) But good or bad, hard or easy, light or dark, it’s all worth it. It is what my Heavenly Father intended for my life. I’m sincerely grateful for every hard, painful, heartbreaking moment that depression has brought me. I’ll take every bit of it. And bring it to God. Because that is where it belongs. Mostly, that is where I belong. He has never left my side. That I know.

Feature Friday: Jamie

Jamie and I have been interacting on Instagram for I don’t even know how long now, and I hope to be able to meet her in person someday. I have grown to love her through the things she shares on her platform. Her smile shows that she has found happiness despite her struggles. She went through things a small child should not have to go through, and it has been affecting her all her life but I love the faith she has in our Savior.
Jamie is married to her husband of 19 years and lives in Queen Creek, AZ with her three kids: 17, 14, and 10 years old. She is a convert to The Church and was sealed to her husband in the Las Vegas Temple. She started writing her blog 3 years ago and speaking to the youth. Her passion is helping youth and women feel that they are not alone in their struggles. She wants to help open the conversation about mental health and share her testimony of her Savior. “It’s okay to not always be okay, and there is always hope.”

Photo by Noel Grace Photography.

When I was 9 years old, I spent my entire Christmas break in bed. I had been for weeks and things didn’t seem to be getting any better. I had a few pretty typical flu-like symptoms and others that didn’t make much sense. My body constantly ached, I had fevers off and on and I was extremely pale. I also had leg cramps so severe I couldn’t move at times. I had extra bruises on my body and one that was large and almost black. It had been there for several weeks and all I could remember was bumping into the rounded corner of my desk at school.

When my fever spiked to 104.6, my mom decided to take me in. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, called Acute Myelocytic Leukemia. I was given a 25% chance of survival. None of the doctors in the entire state of Nevada knew how to treat me. I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA) for treatment.

Once I got to CHLA, I immediately had more tests run and started my first dose of chemotherapy. After a little over a week, I was placed in what we called a “bubble room”. It was a back section of the hospital on the pediatric oncology floor dedicated to quarantine treatment. My chemotherapy protocol was so severe that my body would be unable to fight off common ailments. The flu could have been very dangerous. With my immune system completely depleted, I could have easily died from an infection.

The room looked a lot like a typical hospital room; bed, tv, a large cabinet, and sink. What it was lacking was a bathroom. I had a small metal toilet in the middle of the room that I had to use and a makeshift tub that I was only allowed to use a couple times a week. There was a stationary bicycle in the back corner and where the front wall should be there was a large, clear, vinyl curtain that hung from the ceiling.

There was no door to the room, however, if anyone (doctors, nurses, or family) wanted to come into the room with me they had to “suit up”. They would have to put on a medical hazmat suit that covered their entire body and all of their skin. I had to have no skin to skin contact while I was in the room. I spent three months in that room unable to leave even for a moment.

Those three months were very traumatic. Lots of painful procedures, one of which resulted in an accidental temporary paralysis. I was so weak and sick that I had to be placed on a feeding tube for a couple weeks just to be able to get any nutrition.

The nights spent in that room were terrible and felt extremely lonely.

I had miraculously gone into remission much sooner than any of the doctors expected and the plan was to have a bone marrow transplant; the only known cure of Leukemia. After many more setbacks and difficulties with my heart, I never was able to receive the transplant.

I continued the chemotherapy for one year, and five years later was considered completely cured. It was a miracle. Well, many small miracles that kept me in this world.


I had been raised in a few different faiths and after my chemotherapy ended, my mother and I were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My faith in my Savior sustained me through many years of hard times after that.

As a teenager, I suffered from severe PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, and depression. Life looks very different to a teenager that has gone through a life or death trauma as a child. I felt like I was squandering my second chance at life while I watched many of my friends pass away from the same disease I was saved from. When I was 17 years old, I planned my suicide. I know that it was by the grace of God that I was able to keep myself from following through with those plans.

I now speak to youth to try and help them feel not so alone in their darkness. I want to help break open the conversation on mental health and help these teens see that there is always hope through our Savior. He is the only one that can be there in the darkness with us, understanding, loving, and guiding us back to the light.

I am beyond grateful for my testimony and faith. I have a very real relationship with my Savior and have literally felt Him in the room with me in some of my darkest moments. I have continued to struggle with PTSD and depression throughout the years. I continue to go to therapy to help get through the traumas I have experienced. It has helped in so many ways.

The one thing though that has and always will be my constant, is my Savior, Jesus Christ. He has always been there and I know it is by His hand that I am still here today and able to love my husband and three miraculous children. This Gospel helps keep me grounded in a scary world where I have no control over health or traumatic things. It is my faith that keeps me going and that keeps hope alive that one day the darkness will all subside, and only light and peace and love will be left in its place.

Feature Friday: Colie

I felt a special connection with Colie because she too came home from her mission in Texas because of medical problems. I’m grateful for her willingness to share about that.
Colie Jensen is 20-years-old and is currently a student at BYUI. She is passionate about dance, travel, and being in the moment.

Photo by Amanda Photo Co.

One of the most humbling moments I’ve ever had was being faced with depression. For 19 years of my life, depression was an excuse for people to get out of situations they didn’t want to be in. It was “all in your head” and it was “made up”. Why couldn’t people just “snap out of it?”

There is something so real and dark about depression that I didn’t understand until I went on my mission.

My life made a complete 180 turn when I arrived in Texas. I went from a happy, outgoing, and bubbly girl to someone who hated looking in the mirror, never wanted to get out of bed, and dreaded putting on a “happy” face. There were days where I laid in bed for hours at a time because the darkness around me and inside me felt so real and overwhelming. There were days where thoughts of self-harm would come into my mind and it terrified me. These thoughts were not normal and not healthy!

Days, weeks, and months went by after I came home from my mission – 16 months early. It was HARD. There were and still are moments where I have PTSD after something triggers a dark thought I encountered on my mission. It’s been over a year and a half and sometimes, I question if it was even worth going in the first place. But, there is a quote that a recently heard that changed my perspective on my experience. it may not mean anything to anyone, but it was one of those phrases that sunk DEEP into my soul. “You’re too focused on where you’ve been to pay attention to where you are going.” (Mary Poppins Returns)

It can be so hard and damaging to live in the past and wish for things to change that can’t. Looking at an eternal perspective, this life is so short. My mission and my depression is only a blink compared to an eternity of love, laughter, and pure joy. For those struggling, there is always a light and the end of the tunnel. It may not be now, next week, or 12 years, but it will come. I’ve been walking through this tunnel with a flashlight (and some Dr. Pepper of course) for some time now, and who knows when I’ll get out of it. But, there is so much hope and joy knowing that it’s not forever, only a few minutes out of eternity. You can do it. WE can do it.

Feature Friday: Mindy

I met Mindy at the lunch meet-up that I co-hosted with Veronica from Utah Women’s Retreats last Saturday. She was so easy to talk to and I feel like we have already been friends for longer than a week. She is doing amazing things!
Mindy Rowley is a wife and mother of four kids, she is starting a mom coaching business and she loves nature, writing, and art. Also, check out this ebook about anxiety and depression her Father-in-law wrote here.

Photo by Fausett Photography.

My whole life I’ve felt two-faced. I’m super nice, but sometimes I would feel so out of control that I would behave in unacceptable ways.

Like in first grade when that boy who always tried to kiss me at recess got the scare of his life when I pulled sharp metal scissors out of my pocket. I just wanted to scare him so he’d leave me alone!

Or the time I punched my dad in the gut when he was “pretending to be me” while talking on the phone to my best friend.

Maybe some childhood circumstances conditioned me to behave this way as a child, but I struggled to grow out of it!

After my husband and I were married I had the horrible thought of killing him while I was holding a knife. There I go again with sharp objects! It was a terrible thought and my husband had done nothing to even make me feel this way. He’s a total sweetheart! However, in my mind, I felt threatened in some inconceivable way.

Or there were the countless times when my oldest daughter was potty training and whenever she’d have an accident I was convinced that she was doing it to make me mad. I felt like I couldn’t control myself and I would spank her. Sometimes so hard it would leave a mark. I knew it was abuse and I felt like such a horrible person and a complete and epic failure at being a mom and disciple of Jesus Christ. I felt like I was spiraling downward.

So many times I had the urge to run away and leave my kids. I felt like they’d be better off without me. Maybe my husband could remarry a really great person and my children could have the mother they deserved? Sometimes I felt like I could hardly breathe, or like I was having a heart attack. I felt like I was suffocating in hopelessness.

There were times that I considered talking to a doctor or therapist, but I was too afraid to even say the words anxiety and depression. I was afraid of what those labels would make of me. Would they make me even more of a monster? I didn’t really think there was hope for me.

Finally, I went to a therapist and I just let it all spill. I cried so hard that I’m sure he didn’t have a clue what I was even saying, but it felt really good to get the dark feelings out. I’ve continued to go to counseling, engage in writing and art therapy, meditation, make changes to my diet and getting more sunshine.

Gradually I have felt life come back into me. I could feel the Spirit of God when I read the scriptures and pray. I know it will always be an uphill struggle for me, but I don’t feel alone in the struggle.

Feature Friday: Julie

I found Julie through watching her on a Hi-Five Live with Ganel-Lyn Condie and then was lucky enough to meet her at a launch party in May. We have become close friends since and she has been a huge blessing to me in my life, I don’t know what I would do without her. Her story is one that I believe many can relate to.
Julie Bristow is originally from Holladay, Utah, but has resided in Orem, Utah for the past 13 years with her husband and 3 young children (including boy/girl twins). She graduated from the University of Utah in Human Development and Family Studies. She is passionate about people and making meaningful connections. She worked in health administration at various clinics and hospitals for over a decade after college graduation. She met her husband, Jared, when they were both working as “Especially For Youth” counselors in Rexburg, Idaho. Currently, she is a full-time stay at home mom. She is incredibly passionate about being a mental health advocate. She aims to break the stigma associated with mental health in hopes to pave the way for open conversation of such critical matters. Mental health struggles, mainly in the form of chronic depression and anxiety, have been a part of her life since she was a teenager. She is determined to live a life full of joy despite any darkness trying to pull her down. Some of her other passions include: time spent with family, interior design and decor, writing, photography, dancing in the kitchen with her family, and naps.

Photo by Michelle Cluff Photography.

“Joy Amidst the Sorrow”

I am not depression and anxiety. I am Julie. Just a regular person. My circumstances and hardships do not define me. Your circumstances and hardships do not define you. They are a part of our earthly experience. Twenty-one years of suffering from chronic depression and anxiety are part of my story. I have to accept that. Remembering that along the way our trials help shape and mold us in the refiner’s fire so that we may someday reach our Divine potential. To that end, I endure. To that end, I find joy, hope, and fulfillment despite the darkness, pain, and loneliness.

In my personal experience, I am taught that joy and pain can coexist. That even though I often feel wrapped up in darkness, somehow a knowledge of hope somewhere deep inside of me gets me through one day at a time. I am living, breathing, walking proof of daily struggle and daily joy.

Teenage years/Onset

I first felt of depression and anxiety when I was 17-years-old. Between my Junior and Senior years of high school.

I had no reason to be depressed. No trauma, no unpleasant situations or experiences. No environmental factors. Nothing. In fact, my life had been pretty golden. Why, one day, could I not get out of bed? I still don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that a medical history of depression and anxiety run heavily in my family. At this time, I was the Junior Class president in my high school, a nearly straight-A student, surrounded with a good family, amazing friends, a joyful countenance, and a testimony of Jesus Christ.

I then went to not being able to get out of bed by my Senior year of high school. I remember missing my morning classes and sometimes full days. My friends teased me that I had “senioritis”. I laughed with them, while simultaneously feeling hurt and confused inside. I didn’t know how to explain to them what was going on because I myself didn’t know what was going on. I was just reacting to this strange, new way of being as it came creeping in day by day.

My dear mom eventually dragged me to see some sort of mental health specialist. I don’t remember who because I was too busy throwing an epic fit of protest.  I screamed, cried, and yelled at her. I didn’t want to be different from my peers. I didn’t want to have problems. I told her I didn’t need medicine and that if I just had enough faith and believed in Jesus Christ enough, that He could heal me. I really thought I could pray it away. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t pray my depression and anxiety away. I ended up starting on some medication and counseling, which is what I personally needed.

High school graduation came and I did graduate from high school, although not with the grades I had kept up my whole schooling and really hoped to graduate with. But I did graduate. That was the beginning of many miracles that the Lord would provide for me as I continued and tried my hardest to be faithful to what I believed to be true despite feeling awful inside due to depression and anxiety plaguing me.


After high school, I attended college and graduated by another God-given miracle. Part of that particular miracle was the American with Disabilities Act. After missing so many classes and finding it nearly impossible to focus and study with the raging depression and anxiety I went to the disabilities office on campus and asked what I needed to do to qualify. I needed a note from both my counselor and psychiatrist. I turned in the notes with my diagnosis and recommendations from my doctors and now I was on the “disabled” list which in effect meant I had extra time to get my homework in and extra time to take tests or turn in projects. I don’t know that I would have graduated college without that.

But I did, I graduated college with a Major in Human Development and Family Studies. I cannot deny God’s hand in the achievement of yet another milestone of my life. It was another life line He threw out to help me achieve my dreams to live the kind of life I so desperately wanted despite my limitations and challenges.

Full-time work

Entering the full-time workforce after college graduation was no easy task. I have had a job ever since I was fifteen years old. After the depression and anxiety kicked in, there wasn’t one job or employer that I held where I didn’t get reprimanded for tardiness. Tardiness usually because getting out of bed felt next to impossible.  It was always so humiliating. But, for the most part, employers were understanding, compassionate, and gave me second chances as long as our communication remained open. I found it was so important to speak up about my struggles when it was needed. To give people a chance to give me a chance.


I had good dating experiences throughout high school and college.

I met my now husband, Jared, in my early twenties while we were both working as counselors at Especially For Youth up at BYU Idaho. We started dating and fell in love fairly quickly. I think Jared a little more quickly than me. 🙂

I told him two months after we started dating about my struggles with depression and anxiety. He stayed with me and he supported me. He saw me at my best of times and at my worst of times.

Our dating life and engagement was not easy. Satan used my already established illness of anxiety and depression and messed with my mind big time as I tried to make a decision as big as choosing an eternal companion. I would have these moments of distinct clarity and felt like I was making the right decision, a righteous one to choose and accept Jared as a potential husband. But then, when the anxiety and depression were dialed up, my doubt crept back in and became unbearable at times. To make a long story short, Jared and I endured through the hard times and continued to fight for each other.

We dated a little over a year and were married and sealed in the Salt Lake City temple in 2005.

Photo by Michelle Cluff Photography.


We decided a few years after we are married that we were ready to try for children. We went on to struggle with the heartbreak of infertility and other health issues.  Eventually, we were blessed with three miracle children.

Our firstborn a daughter,  and a few years later we welcomed boy/girl twins into the world.

When the twins were born, we went from one child to three overnight. Three children 3 and under.

I wish I could say it has been bliss ever since because we got what we pleaded and prayed for.  But it would be dishonest to say that. It was and has been hard… really hard. However, through this process, especially of having twins, I was sent earthly angels in the form of family, friends, and neighbors who buoyed us up and kept us going that first year or two. Earthly angels. Life was even harder, but I desperately wanted my children. I fought hard for them and I will never forget that fight.

Family life

It used to be that taking care of only myself, waking up, and showering was considered a “good day” for me… a feat to be overcome. Heck, if I brushed my teeth it was a GREAT day. A reality of living with depression and anxiety is that sometimes the simplest of tasks seem DAUNTING.

I now had four people who depended on me. I was a mother and a wife of a family of five. Often I still feel inadequate to take care of myself, let alone my home and my family. The feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, shame, and guilt are there and are very real.

But I’m here and I’m doing it. I have a good husband by my side. I have the support of family and friends when I need it. We are a happy family, despite all the struggles, we truly have so much joy in our home.

And I really don’t know how, but by the grace of God, I am plugging along one day at a time. Another miracle.


Twenty-one years later after that first encounter of this illness, I still take medication. I see my psychiatrist every 2-3 months. We often change things around. Adding this, taking away that, or trying something entirely new. I’ve tried going off medicine as well, and that is not an option right now. I crash every time and I really cannot function. I am thankful for modern-day medicine to take the edge off even if it doesn’t fully take away my symptoms. No single treatment has ever really worked for me. Medication may not be the answer for everyone. There are many things out there to help, but it is there for those who need it, like me.  I still go to counseling intermittently and I still need all the support and help I can get. My particular diagnosis is called “Treatment Refractory Depression and Anxiety” which means that conventional methods of treating depression and anxiety don’t work for me.


As of late, anxiety has been more prominent in my life lately than straight depression, even though they go hand in hand in a vicious cycle.

Stress and anxiety are part of life, no matter who we are.

Stress (and even anxiety) provide motivation to get something done or to overcome an obstacle. However, sometimes it turns into more negative forms and the very things that can propel us in life can cripple us. My particular anxiety is categorized under “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” which more or less means I often feel intense anxiety or panic about nothing in particular. It simply is just there.

The only way I’ve been able to explain my experience with it to those who are not familiar with the feeling is this:

Imagine you have just received a phone call from the hospital that your child, your parent, or a sibling has just been in a terrible accident and they are in the operating room. You get to the hospital waiting room and all you can do is pace back-and-forth not knowing whether that person is going to live or die. Essentially, you are in a state of panic for fear of the worst.

Now take those same feelings of fear and panic of something horrible happening, and imagine feeling that way, but for NO APPARENT REASON. And with this, I  try so hard to figure the WHY of you feeling this way, but simply cannot.

Sometimes these episodes lead to debilitation. Sometimes all I can do is maybe curl up in a ball underneath the covers and ride out the storm.

Many times the discomfort of anxiety has been so bad, I’ve barely been able to bring food to the table for my kids. I’ve barely been able to cope and function throughout the day.

Periodically, when Jared arrives home from work, I literally see no way out of the pain, than to just go to my room and “check-out” by trying to fall asleep. Exhausted with the mental and physical battle that has been raging in my body all day long, I escape again to the unconscious mind. You could say that sleep is my “drug” of choice.

I have felt like I wanted to die because of the deep, uncomfortable pain. I, myself, have not been truly suicidal, but suicide is real. I have lost loved ones to this due to mental illness. I have witnessed that they felt like they were a burden to the ones they loved,  and they honestly felt that the world around them would be better if they were gone.

When I personally go through periods of deep darkness and hopelessness, I logically know I’ll make it through even though it feels like I won’t. I consider that knowledge of hope one of the greatest blessings of my life even when I can’t feel hope. It’s a perspective that has taken many, many years with lots of therapy to fully grasp.


For me, after enduring the darkness, I know the Heavenly promises come and that there are joys on the other side of that dark tunnel, even when the dark seemed impenetrable. I have felt that dark. I have felt the light. Little by little I sense that I will see the sun rise again, no matter how many days I  have missed it and I vow to never stop fighting.

In Alma Chapter 26 we read about the prophet Ammon who led his brethren who were seeking to do missionary work among the Lamanites against much opposition. At one point in their journey, they were so overcome with defeat they were ready to turn back. In verse 27 it says: Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.


I myself, am still learning to bear with patience mine afflictions. I have not always done it with grace, but I have seen time and time again the success that the Lord has given unto me as I continue to endure. I am still fighting. The battle of this illness continues every single day.

I know that I am not alone. I am not broken, even though I may feel otherwise. As with any physical illness, I continue to seek treatment for my brain. I don’t know why it stopped functioning optimally. It wasn’t caused by anyone else’s actions, or by any fault of my own. I’m not sure why the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in my brain isn’t balanced. I don’t know why the synapses and neurotransmitters are not doing their job correctly. What I do know is how I feel. I do know how it feels to be severely depressed, to have chronic debilitating, paralyzing anxiety on a daily basis. I do know what it feels like to want to be in bed all day,


My struggles, my illness are not a punishment from God. In fact, I feel that they help keep me headed towards God and focused on my Savior, for through His Atonement is the ONLY way I can make it through this.  The Book of Mormon teaches us in the book of Jacob: “Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.” And so it is by my weakness, my human struggle that I am reminded of my great dependence on my Savior.


President Russell M. Nelson said:

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives…..if we focus on the joy that will come to us, or to those we love, what can we endure that presently seems overwhelming, painful, scary, unfair, or simply impossible?”

When I reflect about this principle of truth and the different trials we go through as well as times of reprieve, I realize that sometimes we get to stand in the sun, enjoy its rays, feel of its warmth and light. Other times in life, we have to rely on our memories of that warmth and sunshine. In either situation, there is always room for the light to enter our souls and permeate us with joy.


I want to reemphasize that as much as I talk about hope and joy, a lot of the time I do not always feel hope and joy. I often don’t have the relationship with the Holy Ghost that I wish I did, because sometimes the very faculties to reach my Father in Heaven are the ones that are crippled. That is where obedience comes in. Remaining true to my covenants and having faith in Heavenly Father’s promises. So, at times it is my knowledge of hope and joy that carry me through on my darkest of days when feeling anything like joy just isn’t possible.


That knowledge that carries me through is my testimony of Jesus Christ and this gift of endurance is given only in and through Him. So I have hope. Not necessarily hope that this trial will be taken away from me permanently, but hope that I can continue to endure, endure it well, and find joy amidst the pain. Ultimately becoming the person Heavenly Father intended me to be.

Feature Friday: Kim C

I met Kim at a launch party back in May and have been following her on Instagram since. I also had the opportunity to hear her roundtable discussion at SALT in September. The term “boss babe” comes to mind when I think of Kim because she is so gorgeous and just read her bio. She has a heart of gold and I am excited to see what other amazing things she does.  I love how she opened up about having postpartum depression and how she used mindfulness to help her overcome.
Kimberly is a freelance writer, journalist, creative brand namer, and book-loving mom. She talks about mindfulness, motherhood, and books online at Talk Wordy to Me, and is a contributor on Utah’s top lifestyle show, Studio 5. She is co-creator of the Loom Journal, a revolutionary parent-child journal that fosters mindfulness and screen-free connection and development. She’s also working on a historical romance novel inspired by her visit to the picturesque Cotswolds in the English countryside. She is a fan of BBC dramas, teaching and practicing yoga, ice cream, traveling the world, simplifying her life and home, and encouraging other women to live their dreams.

Photo by Brittany Allred

How mindfulness helped me out of postpartum depression and how it can help all of us

I had just had my third child—the sweetest addition to our family and our most mild-mannered baby. We were so happy to have her. We had tried for her for awhile, and had a few scares during my pregnancy that we’d lose her due to a significant blood clot I had in my uterus. So when she arrived, healthy and whole, we were overwhelmed with gratitude.

But despite that gratitude and her sweet temperament, I started struggling with postpartum depression about four months after she was born.

The days felt like a never ending carousel of overwhelm and not being able to meet my three little childrens’ needs. Every day felt like a gigantic wave crashing harshly against a cliff, then retreating back, just to crash into the cliffs again.

Adding a child to the family is overwhelming for everyone, but I could tell there was something else going on aside from the normal adjustment to having a new baby. I didn’t feel like myself. Anger, sadness, anxiety, and stress pervaded my thoughts and emotions and I felt like I could never quite rise above it.

Anyone who has experienced any form of depression knows what it feels like to have that heavy cloud following you around everywhere. Life just doesn’t hold the vibrancy or hope it used to, and self-love is far away. It’s replaced with shame, despair, and a desire to disappear.

Sometimes, when I was driving the car with all of my kids in it, one of them would freak out or fight or melt down, and I felt an intense loss of control. I remember wanting to crash the car on more than one occasion. I just wanted to escape.

The worst of it for me was that I started feeling uncharacteristic anger. It’s hard to explain the intensity of it, but something would trigger it, like a child’s meltdown, and I reached a point where I couldn’t process my anger or keep it inside any more. It was like it wasn’t even part of me, but something that rose up like an ugly monster when it was set off. I had to do something physical to release it. I would slam a wall, throw something, or knock something over to release this wave of emotion that was too strong for me to handle. I lost it with my kids too. I didn’t hurt them, but I had thoughts of doing so. And sometimes I yelled, swore (all the words), and grabbed them too harshly. Those moments scared me, and they scared my kids. They were always followed by a wave of intense shame and guilt, and a desire to escape this monster inside of me.

Here’s something I wrote in my journal about my newfound anger before I learned that anger can be an indicator of postpartum depression:

It’s the thing I hate the most about myself.

It makes it harder that it’s not even something I struggled with until I became a mom of multiple children. I’m trying to figure out where the frustration comes from.

I went on to write about a time my boy (4 years old at the time) was relentlessly begging and whining about something he could not have. After trying to hold it together for awhile, I eventually lost my temper.

Something about the sound and the loss of control and ability to reason with him breaks something in me and I snap. So, I did. I pushed a small table down and a few things tumbled to the ground. I swore too.

Camden’s cries changed instantly from whiny “I want my way” cries to more genuine “mom is scary” cries. He yelled to me that I was being mean and breaking our things, and he ran to his room. I thought I should do the same, so I proclaimed a time-out and shut myself in my room to write this.

Meanwhile, Ellie broke into sobs and started calling for me.

I, of course, felt like the piece of something I yelled out in my rage minutes before and hugged and apologized to my son, then did the same with my girl.

Those apologies are becoming pretty commonplace around here. I hope they don’t lose their meaning.

More than that, I hope to God that my sweet children’s childhood memories are not laced with vivid (or even blurry) scenes of me losing it out of frustration with them.

What does that do to their self-esteem? What does that teach them? How will my behavior affect them as they grow up and become parents?

How is it affecting them now? Ellie and Camden both “lose it” out of frustration for each other and for us. They threaten to hit and throw just like I catch myself doing from time to time. They yell and scream, just like I do. Is that my fault? Would they be much kinder and more patient if I was?

How do I break this habit? How is it possible to break a reaction to something negative when the negative thing isn’t going to change?

The guilt I feel over this behavior of mine is a bottomless pit. I wish I could magic it away, but it keeps coming back. Worse when I’m tired. 

Would I be able to control my temper better if I worked less? Was less involved in Instagram and blogging? If I planned my days around my children instead of around my agenda? How do I even go about doing that?

First, I’ll start with prayer.

Prayer to know if there are things, distractions in my life that I need to let go of. And to know which ones are important for me to hold on to. Because I don’t think letting go of everything I’m doing outside of motherhood is the answer. I think the other things I do go a long way to help me feel fulfilled and more well-rounded and happy as a person and mom.

But what is causing this imbalance?

Is there a change I can make in my health that will help me have more balance, more calm, more control, more energy?

Is there something lacking in my spiritual life? Will reading scriptures more, going to the temple help me overcome this weakness?

Do I need to cut way back on Instagram and being on my phone? How do I stick to disciplinary goals I’ve made in that regard?

I know I want to be more in tune with my kids. Their needs, what makes them tick. I want them to feel so heard, understood and valued. I want them to know they are more important to me than anything else.

Looking at my phone while they talk to me is not going to communicate that. Kids can tell if they’re being put first or not. I need to put more energy into making them my primary focus.

Because these years are short. They go by quickly, then there’s no time to start over or go back and spend more time with them or erase the parental temper tantrums. This is what I’ve got. Today. So I need to pay attention.

Five years from now, will I look back and be happy with how I spent my time? Addicted to social media and the responses I get there? Is there a middle ground? I’d like to be part of it, but not consumed by it.

As I pray for guidance in this anger issue and social media addiction issue, I hope I will get an answer that will lead me to a better, more present and productive version of myself.

I did get that answer. It came as three distinct steps:

First, I needed help. I wanted to fix things on my own, but I realized that was I was experiencing was not entirely in my control. I saw a therapist who diagnosed me with postpartum depression and helped me realize that many of the feelings I was struggling with (including the anger) was not my fault. I did not need to keep shaming myself for it. She gave me some tools for processing emotion that I still use today.

Second, I needed to look after myself in a productive, meaningful way. I needed to reconnect to who I was and what made me feel whole.

Third, I needed to care less about the world of my to-do list and my phone, and more about the little people in front of me.

At this time, mindfulness was becoming a buzzword. It’s been around for centuries, but we are all learning about it now because of social media and technology, instead of it being kept in therapist’s offices or monasteries. When I started learning about mindfulness, is felt like I was refamiliarizing myself with grounding practices that were already a part of my intuition, I just had forgotten how to access them.

Studies show that mindfulness can help prevent and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It helped me in a huge way to climb out of the darkness I was in and it continues to help me access happiness and stay grounded every day. Here are just a few ways mindfulness helps me:

  1. Mindful technology and social media use

The worst thing about this PPD and social media addiction I was experiencing was that they disconnected me from my kids and my husband. I wasn’t connected to the things that really mattered–the life and the people right in front of me. They disconnected me from my own intuition, the voice that tells me what I need to be doing instead of just watching what everyone else is doing and trying to fit myself into that box was quieted by the whoosh of my scrolling and tapping.

Once I had my wake-up call, I set some ground rules with my phone. No more going to it first thing in the morning. Instead, I turned it off by 10 at night and kept it out of my bedroom. I stashed it in a drawer during the day in favor of more eye contact with my kids. I left it behind on purpose. I still used it, but with intention instead of mindlessness now. My kids noticed, and our relationships and their behavior improved. All of our behavior improved. Our kids deserve so much more than being brushed off in favor of a screen. My social media use still gets out of whack sometimes, but creating boundaries and staying connected to my real-life relationships has helped immensely. I wrote more tips on healthy social media use in this article.

2. Meditative moments

I love meditation, but an hour-long session of seated silence just isn’t realistic for me right now. Instead, I find other ways to “meditate” throughout the day:

  • A three-minute guided meditation on Headspace
  • Three deep breaths anytime during the day
  • Youtube yoga
  • Meaningful prayer
  • Journaling
  • Anchoring myself in moments by observing all of my senses
  • Making a mental gratitude list

Working these moments of pause into my day go a long way to helping me feel more calm and grounded.

3. Thought work

All of our emotions are a result of our thoughts. Everything we believe, do, and are starts in our thoughts. Once I started paying attention to and changing the course of my thoughts, I noticed a huge change in my emotional health. I stopped believing everything I thought and chose my thoughts instead of letting them rule my emotions.

No one is immune to feeling the effects of depression and anxiety. We are all on the spectrum, and there are things that trigger it and things we can do to prevent and manage it. Beyond the medication that is necessary in some cases, I think mindfulness is the most powerful thing we can invest in to take care of our mental health.

Click here for Kimberly’s guide, Everyday Mindfulness: Simple practices for a more present, peaceful, purposeful life.

Feature Friday: Alexis

I found Alexis’ Instagram account and asked her to share her experience with anxiety. Her account is great and can be found here, she also has a Facebook page.
Alexis Graff is 22-years-old and a mom of two little boys under age 2. She recently graduated from Dixie State University with a psychology degree, aspiring to one day become a substance abuse counselor. She would love to help end the stigma of mental health by educating others about it and letting others know it is okay to have trials. “As we share our vulnerabilities we can be of great help to others around us!”


I learned what it was at 18 years old. It started in 4th grade, at age 10. My parents switched me from public to private school because they felt like I was wasn’t learning enough in school. I always had straight A’s, which I think played a huge role in the switching of schools.

A few months into school, there was a social studies exam I needed to take the next day. My cousins had come into town that night, so instead of studying, I played. (Keep in mind I was only 10!) I took the test the next day, knowing I had missed almost everything. Then we graded them. Before we even started, I knew I failed that exam miserably. My teacher started giving us the scores based on questions missed. I could feel my heart racing so fast, my stomach becoming a huge knotted mess. I had never felt so afraid in my whole life. I asked to go to the bathroom as my voice shook, you know, when you’re trying to prevent yourself from crying. I got to the bathroom and began sobbing on my knees, by the toilet. I felt like the knot in my stomach was going to come out of my throat. It didn’t.

I failed that test. My parents were going to be so disappointed. Why didn’t I study? I shouldn’t have played, I should have been responsible. What if I didn’t pass the 4th grade? I just sat there miserable, afraid, not knowing what to do.

My teacher came and found me and I told her I was so sick. My stomach was hurting so bad. She called my mom and she took me to Instacare thinking I had something wrong with me. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the doctor saw me and said I was fine. Nothing was wrong with me. He mentioned an ulcer but that was the extent of that. So for years, I battled daily migraines, headaches, waking up with stomach aches, and more.

When I got into middle school, I finally had an MRI done because these headaches were not normal. Guess what? The MRI came back clear. What the crap?!

After that, I just decided that I was probably going to have these problems forever and I’d better get used to them.

All of those symptoms were present in anything I did. At work, at school, in volleyball, in choir, at church, at the store, and pretty much everywhere else.

I graduated high school, started college and that’s when everything made sense. There I was studying psychology, and we were discussing different mental disorders. As the professor went over GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), I finally felt understood and knew I was clearly not the only one facing this awful disorder.

Fast forward a marriage, and a baby later (3 years) I started a page to help others understand what mental health is, what living with a mental illness is like, and how to cope. I want people to know they are not alone, and that sharing their experiences can help others in ways nobody else can.

Feature Friday: Jenna

Jenna was (I say was because she has no graduated) a Laurel in my ward (I serve as the second counselor in YW’s), and she is as beautiful on the inside as she is the outside. She has a kind tenderness about her and she truly radiates light and love. I have enjoyed getting to know her and am so grateful for her bravery in sharing her struggles at a younger age.
Jenna is eighteen years old and graduated high school at the beginning of June. Life is crazy and busy for her right now because she has been at Davis Technical College doing cosmetology! She loves it so much and she feels so fortunate to work with amazing and new people every day. Right now she has a BIG goal and that is to spread mental health awareness, to make anxiety and depression and other disorders talked about more. “The only way things can get better is to talk about it and to show people that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s why I love what Ally has done with her blog and I’ve actually started my own! Mine is all about my story and mental health, follow along if you’d like here and follow my Instagram @jennalyn.franks.”

Photo by Sydney Spackman

It’s really hard to pinpoint a moment when you realize you’re depressed. For me at least. It definitely didn’t happen suddenly or right in front of my eyes. It happened, slowly, over time and in a way I didn’t even know what I was feeling.

Summer of 2015, the summer leading up to my sophomore year is when it started. Depression often has triggers, and me already having anxiety for as long as I can remember, it was easy for there to be a trigger. I was about to take a huge step forward in my life, I was going to be in high school now! Exciting right?! Well… not for me. As I was saying goodbye to my junior high friends and as summer was coming to an end I found myself feeling down. Sophomore year started and my anxiety was the highest it had ever been, I felt no peace and I constantly felt sick. A lot of people are so excited to start at a new school because they can “re-invent” themselves. And I guess I sorta did, but not for the better. I lost myself. Being around all of these pretty girls, with faces caked full of makeup, and then finally getting social media and seeing society’s expectations of pretty, I did not feel like I could ever compare. My self-image plummeted, and with that formed a new, shy Jenna because I didn’t have the confidence not to be. I just got stuck; I got stuck in my head, I got stuck in my dark room, I got stuck in the same repetitive days of high school while feeling anxious and never confident in who I was.

Months went on like this. I would sit in my room and listen to depressing music, only to come out for meals or school. I pushed my only two friends away, and I was alone. Or at least felt like it. I had started to hate doing the things that I loved, like playing guitar, or singing, being outside and I even started hating going to church. Not because I didn’t like church, I just didn’t like socializing IN church. I also think a part of me was a little mad at God for the way my life was. Until one day I was sitting in my church sacrament meeting, and I had such bad anxiety about going to Sunday school that I just broke down and sobbed during the closing song. I remember the embarrassment I felt and I remember thinking, “Oh no, the jig is up. Now people will know how I feel and I can’t hide from them.” I don’t know why, but depression makes you feel like you have to hide like you should be ashamed. I remember my mom taking me outside and I literally just told her everything because there wasn’t anything else I could do, and because I had wanted someone to tell all along I just didn’t know how. I told her how I felt, and the thoughts I had been having. But after I told her, I felt bad, because I felt like now it was not only my burden but hers.

But the thing is, and I wish I knew this then, the longer you wait to get help and tell someone, the harder and darker it gets. Depression takes over your mind and you see the world and life in an entirely different way. If my judgment wasn’t clouded, I would’ve known that my mom wouldn’t see it as a burden because she loves me and wants to help me. Long story short, I got on some Prozac and got into therapy with an amazing counselor who literally saved my life and changed the way I think and cope. Never be too ashamed to go to therapy or take medicine, it helped me so much.

During this whole process of getting help, I realized that I had completely pushed God away. I started to understand that not only was I depressed but I didn’t have the spirit with me anymore, and that made things more awful than they had to be. I started to see that although my circumstances sucked, they could be made better with Christ. I turned to him. I started pouring out my soul in prayer and having conversations with God, real conversations. Christ truly became my best friend, and even if I didn’t feel like I had any friends in high school, I knew I had Him.

The hardest part of my life so far was also the most growing experience and brought me to humble myself and truly come unto Christ. What I went through sucked, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Not only have I been able to be more in tune with the spirit but I’ve been able to be a vessel for God’s light to help people going through similar things that I went through. I am so thankful for the empathy I have for them and my awareness towards mental illness. Because I never would’ve understood. Being close to God helped me see my worth, forming me into a (mostly) confident teenage girl for the remaining years of high school. Junior year I really did get to re-invent myself, for the better this time. I was so different that so many people asked if I was new… I basically was.

My favorite scripture that got me through everything is Ether 12:27, my Dad said it once during a father’s blessing and ever since then it has helped me and I know for a fact it was God giving it to me because He knew that I would need it. A while later, I definitely did. It reads: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” God’s grace extends to everyone, and I’ve felt it more times than I can count. All you have to do is let Him in. Having God by my side with my depression made things ten times easier than when I pushed Him away. Don’t push Him away. I can assure you, He is waiting with His arms wide open for the day when you turn to face Him and accept His love and beautiful gift.

Feature Friday: Michelle

I know Michelle as Hermana Crowley, we were in the same MTC District. She has the kindest heart and sweetest spirit. I loved being able to serve with her.
Michelle grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. After she graduated from High School, she attended BYU-Idaho. In the middle of her education, she made the decision to serve a mission. She served in the Texas, Houston mission, Spanish speaking. Her mission is something that she holds very dear to her heart and she will forever be grateful for that experience. Through her mission, she learned how much she loves people as well as how much she loves to teach and help others. After she returned from her mission, she was blessed to have more opportunities to teach. She was an EFY counselor for two summers which was an amazing, growing experience. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science and a minor in Marriage and Family in July of 2016. After she graduated she moved to Salt Lake where she is currently living. She works at St Marks Family Medicine. She is a receptionist and a prior-authorization where she works with insurances to approve certain procedures for patients. She loves her current job and the skills it has given her. She has worked with and met amazing people. Though, she hopes to one-day shift her focus again to teaching more. She is currently researching options to return to school or become certified in a skill where she is able to connect and help people more on a personal basis. She loves to dance! Latin dancing, ballroom dancing, or random dance parties. She was a Latin dance instructor for a period of time at BYU-I, and it’s something she is passionate about. She loves music and singing. She loves spending time with people she loves. She has 3 nephews and 2 nieces that she ADORES. She likes to watch movies, play games, laugh, and eat good food. Anxiety is something that she has struggled with throughout her life, but it wasn’t labeled for her till fall of 2014. She was diagnosed with depression Spring of 2016.

Photo by Whitney Majors.

My first full-blown panic attack was one of the most terrifying and awful moments of my life. It was late. I had just broken up with my boyfriend. We had been dating on and off for nearly two years. Though I didn’t realize it until I was out of it for a while, our relationship had some serious issues that I believe would have become more serious and more damaging in a marriage. I didn’t see that though, or didn’t choose to see it. Every couple had problems, right? No relationship is going to be perfect, right? I loved him. I wanted to be with him. I was determined to make it work. It didn’t matter that my anxiety had become nearly unmanageable. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t sleeping. It didn’t matter how thin and exhausted I was. It didn’t matter that my heart would race – even in the middle of the day just sitting at a desk. It didn’t matter that I was constantly worrying and on edge. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t myself. It didn’t matter how worried my family and close friends were. I was committed to this relationship regardless of how unhealthy it was. It was my life in a very toxic way. Over the last couple of years, things gradually had gotten to the point where I had lost myself. How I felt about myself was governed by how HE felt about me and how HE perceived me. And if I didn’t have him, who was I?

It was our second attempt at discussing marriage. I had been away from BYU-I for the semester for an internship. Long distance had its challenges, but it only solidified my desperation to be with him. We were in the beginning stages of looking at possible rings, talking about wedding dates, discussing future plans. It was early April of 2016, right before I headed back to BYU-I for my final semester. Lately, in our conversations together, I had been noticing some things that he would say that didn’t quite add up or settle in my gut. It was becoming more and more apparent something was wrong. I was trembling and sick to my stomach the night I confronted him about it. My world shattered when he finally told me the truth… that he had been pursuing a girl for some time and they had started dating. An awful wave of realization washed over me and betrayal churned in my stomach. I don’t know if I was driven by anger, heartbreak, courage, or all of the above – but I almost instantly felt in my heart and soul that I needed out. Right then. I ended it. I was done. I deserved better than this. I felt completely disrespected. Did he not love me? He would tell me that he did every day… but maybe he didn’t mean it? Am I not good enough? Why was he wanting to be with her? Did I do something wrong again? Is this my fault? Why would he do this? I was so angry. I’ve never felt anger like that before. But I still loved him. I still worried about him. I worried how he was doing because I just tearfully and angrily broke up with him. Was he okay? Was he hurting? Did he feel bad? Or maybe, he was relieved? Was he happy to be rid of me? Am I not worth it? I remember walking straight into my sister’s room, sobbing and fuming about what had just occurred. My stomach was tight. My head was spinning. I felt out of control. Leaning on my sister, who just held me, I felt myself losing grip on reality. I all of a sudden couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t I breathe!? I felt like I was suffocating. Choking. I was trying, but could not catch a breath, which caused me to panic even more. I remember my sister’s faraway voice and her light hand on my back, “Breathe Michelle.” Her gentle presence slowly brought me back down to earth. I was nowhere near calm though. As I learned how to breathe again, I felt dizzy and lightheaded. My stomach was still it tiny little knots. I felt sick. I could not stop crying.
Sleep did not come to me that night. My angel of a sister stayed with me. She didn’t leave my side. It was probably 2 or 3 in the morning when we put in a movie to try and help distract my mind. Which worked only a little. My sister fell asleep. I continued to lie there on the sofa in my parent’s basement. I felt more and more sick. I felt hopeless. I still felt angry. And my brain couldn’t get rid of the images I had created of him and her together. I was heartbroken. But I was also worried about the man that I still very much cared about. There was a confusing amount of feelings and thoughts coursing through me. I was exhausted. But sleep still didn’t come.

A week or so later I was back in Rexburg for my final semester at BYU-I. Things did not get better. I had spiraled into severe depression. I had experienced depression before, but not to this degree. I felt numb. Unmotivated. I would break down in the middle of class and have to leave the classroom because I couldn’t get a hold of myself. I struggled to keep up in almost all of my classes, which was unusual for me. I felt heavy and weak. I wasn’t sleeping at night even though I was always so tired. I couldn’t eat even though I could tell my body needed food. There were many days I would just stay in bed. I was stuck in a very hopeless, dark hole, and I didn’t know how to get out. Even if I did know how I wasn’t sure if I’d even have the motivation or strength to make it. Fortunately, I did. Just not on my own.

Mental health wasn’t something that my family discussed very much growing up, if ever. I believe anxiety has affected me since I was a little girl. It has manifested itself in different ways in different periods of my life, but I had never really labeled it for what it was. I served a mission in Houston, Texas where I taught the Gospel in Spanish. It was an incredible experience that I will forever be grateful for. Anxiety, and for the first time, depression, were both things that affected me at different points on my mission. But, again I didn’t understand what I was actually experiencing till later in my life. I was blessed to be able to successfully cope with these struggles, but I don’t believe they were as severe as they would become in later years. It wasn’t until the summer of 2014, at 23 years old, that I started to understand anxiety and depression for what they were. These were discoveries that I gained through certain health classes and conversations with others. I started to realize that these struggles were keeping me from living the life I wanted to live. I began to take steps in getting help. One of the hardest steps in this journey was the initial admitting that I had a mental health struggle. I remember talking to my mom and one of my mission companions about my concerns. In both of the conversations, I was shaky, tearful, and almost ashamed of having a mental health problem. With their encouragement, I began to see a counselor on campus. This was also a very difficult step for me. I felt embarrassed to walk into that office. Me? Needing therapy? But as I continued to see my therapist, I noticed that every time I’d sit in the waiting room, I saw someone I knew. It began to feel like my struggles were more normal than I had thought. So many people have a relationship with mental health struggles, and people often need help with these struggles. Therapy was an incredible, eye-opening experience for me. My therapist helped me label my emotional distress as anxiety and helped me understand how I could manage it.

There are a lot of things that have helped me cope with my anxiety and depression over the last several years. Therapy, medication, taking walks, breathing exercises, grounding techniques, and nutrition – to name a few. All these things are in what I like to call my “toolbox.” This toolbox continues to grow and evolve as I progress and change. All of these coping mechanisms I believe are things that I have been led to by Heavenly Father. My mental health is something I have continually prayed for guidance about. There are often times when I don’t know what I need. But, I know Heavenly Father knows and understands me and can help me know what steps I need to take. A key component in my perpetual coping and healing is the Atonement. To be honest, this is something I sometimes forget to turn to. But, it has consistently been a strength to me as I’ve made my way through this complex and layered part of my life.

On my mission, I was introduced to a talk by Elder Bednar that had an immense impact on my mission, but also in my life after the mission. I believe this talk was in the April 2012 Ensign. It’s titled: The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality.

In this talk Elder Bednar discusses different examples in the Book of Mormon where the enabling power of the Atonement is used. One of these examples is a moment with Nephi and his brothers. Nephi’s brothers took him, bound him, and left him in the wilderness. In this challenging moment, Nephi prayed. But, he wasn’t praying to have the Lord take away the situation. “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound” (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added). He asked for STRENGTH in his circumstances – strength and ability that was beyond what he could do on his own. He was ENABLED to break the bands that held him. Another example that Elder Bednar uses to illustrate the enabling power of the atonement is with Alma and his people who were in bondage.

“I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. …And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:14–15; emphasis added). Again we see that the Lord did not take away their burdens. Instead, He gave them added strength and capacity beyond their own, and their burdens were lightened. Elder Bednar teaches, “The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own… The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.”

How does this process work? How does this happen? I honestly don’t know how to fully comprehend it. But I can testify that it’s real. And I know that this power comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people… And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11–12; emphasis added). Jesus Christ suffered for us. He has felt every heartache. Every panic attack. Every numb, unmotivated spiral into dark, heavy depression. Every meltdown. He knows perfectly and intimately how it feels. Because He knows exactly how it feels, He knows perfectly how to help us, how to succor us. If we trust Him and allow Him into our hearts, if we reach out to Him, He can heal. He can strengthen. He can comfort and lift our spirits. He can help us survive each day.

I have seen the power of the Atonement in my life. Especially in times of darkness. I felt it that last semester at BYU-I when I didn’t know who I was, heartbroken, numb, unmotivated. I made it through the semester. I passed my classes. I graduated! There were so many times I felt deeply alone, but I know now that I wasn’t. Whether it was direct strength from the Lord, or through other people that were placed in my life, I was not alone. Over time, I began to feel lighter. I felt hopeful. There were days when I even felt overwhelming joy and gratitude for my life and what it was.

Mental and emotional struggles are very much still a part of my life. I still have days where I struggle to get out of bed. I still have days where my heart races and I’m stuck in my head. I still have panic attacks every now and then. Depression and anxiety are a part of my life – a part of who I am. Though it’s a challenge, many blessings have come from this trial. It’s not easy to look at it this way every day, but I am grateful for the lessons I’m learning and continue to learn.

“You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, ‘No one understands. No one knows.’ No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.”

This quote, also from Elder Bednar’s talk, is so close to my heart. We are not alone in navigating this life. And we most definitely don’t have to heal, cope, or manage mental illness on our own. How grateful I am for the beautiful gift of the Atonement. It truly can help us pull through our hardest, most challenging days. It has for me.

Feature Friday: Rachel S

Rachel sent me a message on Instagram a couple weeks ago telling me she found my blog and kept thinking she should ask if she could share her story. I love messages like this! I am so glad she found this blog and was willing to share her story. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live with what she does, but am so amazed by her strength and faith.
Rachel Duncan Standing is 20 and she has a major passion for baking and cooking. She also enjoys watching TV, programming, eating, and making spreadsheets. She was homeschooled from Kindergarten-12th grade and she completed 2 ½ semesters at LDS Business College, which is where she met her husband, Austin. They met when they were asked to be part of a group singing in the New Student Orientation devotional. Despite her terrible singing skills, he decided he liked her and she was all for it. They got married in August 2016 in the Bountiful Temple.
meandaustin Since I can remember, I have always based my self worth on my intelligence and ability to accomplish things. As a child, I dreamed of going to college, getting multiple advanced degrees, and going on to be a great scholar and published author. As the years went on, my dreams took lots of different shapes, but they were all very ambitious. One year, I wanted to be a Marketing Executive, then there were a few years where I wanted to be a dentist. I also thought about becoming a Physician’s Assistant, a sociological research scientist, a lawyer, or an epidemiologist. In my mind, I was invincible. I truly believed that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. It was a really rough year for me. The anxiety that in the past had mostly fueled me to be extremely on top of things (in retrospect, it was still very unhealthy) became extremely difficult to deal with. I wondered if my plans to go to a state college and major in Public Health were the best option for me, and after feeling a prompting to attend LDS Business College, I decided to switch my life plans and go to LDSBC while I figured out what I really wanted. I wish I could tell myself then just how much my life was about to change, but I had no idea. My first two semesters of college were great. I lived with girls who I loved and I spent every spare second either at one of my two jobs or with friends. I got good grades, I went on dates, and I eventually met my husband. The summer that Austin and I were engaged was when things changed. I had started treatment for Depression and Anxiety and it was helping a lot. I was super happy and I was working a full-time job and a part-time job. My life looked exactly the way I wanted it to. I was working and succeeding at my jobs while having a happy relationship. However, I started to notice that I was more dizzy than usual. It was just annoying enough to get in the way of some everyday things but minor enough that I assumed it was a side effect of my medication.

About two months after we got married, my physical health began to spiral. I was overwhelmed and extremely unhappy. Between working a high-stress part-time job and going to school full time for a major I had very little interest in, I assumed that my life was just in a weird place and maybe I was just physically manifesting my stress. I had just gotten married, so I felt ashamed of the fact that I was so miserable. Wasn’t this supposed to be the greatest part of my life? After missing too many classes to makeup, I went to my doctor to see if I had mono or something similar. Honestly what I wanted was just a confirmation that I wasn’t “crazy”. I believed that I was a failure and that I was just going to flunk out of college. I pushed friends away because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of happiness and love. When I went to see my doctor, he told me that something was clearly wrong and he insisted that I follow proper procedure to obtain a medical release from school. That was a light in the darkness for me.

Unfortunately, we learned that my nausea, dizziness, and fatigue were not caused by Mono. For the next few months, my life consisted of constant doctors appointments, bed rest in a dark room, and complete despair. One of the hardest things was the feeling that maybe I was just imagining the whole thing. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I would ever have thought such a thing. I was so ill! After starting medication to mask the symptoms we didn’t understand, I insisted on going back to work full time. I take full responsibility for this. I thought that if I went to therapy and tried to get my life as close to “normal” as I could, that I would be able to restart my life the way it was before I got sick. Unfortunately, although therapy was incredible and life changing, working was a very bad decision. I became increasingly ill as I tried to ignore my symptoms and push past them. After missing work for several days because I was too exhausted to get out of bed, I quit my job and dropped all the classes I had planned to take the next semester. I really want to stress something here. This could have been the beginning of a very dangerous downward spiral, but because I was in therapy and because I was starting to believe again that God loved me no matter what, I chose to believe that I was worthwhile whether or not I was proving myself to be a good employee and intelligent person. This was a huge shift for me. I had never ever believed that about myself, ever. My self esteem was completely tied up in a version of me that ceased to exist when my body decided it couldn’t keep up anymore. Realizing that God didn’t just love workaholic Rachel- He honestly loved me even if I sat at home and cried every day about why I was sick and didn’t go to school- that was life-changing. In fact, I even began to love myself.

After leaving my job, I continued to go to doctors appointments, seeking answers about what was wrong. I very distinctly remember reading an article around a year after dropping out of school. The article was written by a woman who was also dealing with chronic illness, and she talked about how lonely and awful she felt when it took her 6 months to get a diagnosis. I related so much to what she said, but I bawled my eyes out over the fact that it had been twice that time and I still had no idea what was wrong. A few weeks later, my doctor referred me to a specialty clinic. In February of this year, I was finally given a concrete diagnosis. I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which is known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the U.S. Ever since I learned exactly what is wrong with me, I have felt a lot more hope in my life. However, having chronic illnesses is really hard. It is alienating to not be able to do basic things. Before I got sick, I had never considered what it would be like to not have the energy to walk two blocks. I couldn’t have imagined how much it takes out of me to shower or go downstairs to pour a bowl of cereal. However, I also couldn’t have imagined how much love I would gain for everyone in the world who is struggling. I don’t want to say that being sick has made me a better person. In some ways, it has made me bitter and jaded, but it has also made me much more empathetic. I feel so much love and sympathy for people who are hurting. I truly believe that God has put love in my heart for other people who are going through what I have gone through. It used to be really hard for me to accept God’s hand in my life. I often hear people say that everything happens for a reason and that God wants everything that happens to us to happen. I know that that comes from a place of faith, but I don’t believe that. We live in a fallen world, and something things are just plain hard. Sometimes things happen to us for no other reason than that our genes didn’t quite turn out the way they weren’t supposed to! I want everyone dealing chronic illnesses or other types of heartbreak and loss to know that God loves you no matter what. He loves you even if you never go back to college! He loves you if you never work again. He loves you if you never have the energy to date or if you can’t physically or mentally handle going to church. He will love you even if no one else believes in you.

To those of you in the church who aren’t dealing with mental or physical illness, please understand that sometimes the things that people who are mentally or physically ill do will not make sense to you. Please don’t label us as “less active” or “not committed”. Please think about the way that someone with a chronic illness might feel when you call people who don’t go to the temple often “lazy”. Please understand that the kind of Christian that a person is cannot be changed by their physical or mental ability to complete the things that allow them to outwardly look like a good member of the church.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.